PC Gamer

Well, FINALLY. A brave soul has at long last taken the completely logical step of modding turn-based Pok mon-style combat into Amnesia: The Dark Descent. The mod is called Monsters, and no, it doesn't feature fiery lizards and and squirting turtles and yellow electric squirrels (sorry, I don't really know much about Pok mon, which is going to become quite clear). Instead, your monsters are props from the game, like chairs, boxes, tables, wine barrels, and stoves.

Stove, I choose you. Respond by saying, I dunno... "stove" I guess?

After a brief intro where you find an orb and rub it with some orb wax, you unleash some sort of... I don't really know what it is. A powerful spirit that wants to play Pok mon against you? Something like that. After fleeing the energy being, you encounter an angry walking suit of armor, and a small friendly crate who fights it for you. This crate is your first Pok mon, and it has a single power, wood aura, which flings boxes at your enemy.

This is some sort of Pok mon business happening, I'd wager.

With your trusty crate (fully voiced, and quite well, by the way), you can visit various rooms and find opponents waiting for you. Use your crate to defeat, say, a stove, and you gain a power from that stove. You also gain experience points to increase your level, and can evolve into other forms. I presume actual Pok mon works in roughly the same way?

Damn you, barrel of wine!

I played for a bit and it's fun. I evolved my crate into a chair, gaining a dust storm power, and then evolved from a chair into a stove, gaining a smoke power. Then, I tried to alt-tab out to read the manual and the game crashed, so don't do that. But do download the manual, as it lets you know what sorts of powers do best against which sorts of monsters.

Do I want to evolve into a stove? Hell yes I do. You didn't even need to ask.

I started over and became a chair again, and then tried to take on the boss of the level, which turned out to be quite a powerful monster and not as warm and cuddly as the various pieces of furniture I'd been battling with. I think I'll go back to fighting tables and wardrobes until I've gotten a bit better.

This is a really fun mod and a very unusual idea: bringing turn-based furniture combat into a game famous for having no combat at all. You can grab it off moddb.com.

Someday my crate will use Spookbones. This I so swear.
PC Gamer

This is what I like to call a total cheat. You see, we hadn't previously covered Penumbra: Necrologue. That feels like a mistake, given that the Amnesia: The Dark Descent mod is a fan-made follow-up to Frictional's Penumbra series. It's seemingly well loved, too. Released last October, it currently enjoys an impressive user rating on ModDB, and also won 'Best Singleplayer' in that site's Mod of the Year awards.

Fortunately, it recently popped up on Steam Greenlight with a new trailer. That means I safely post about it without attracting the ire of The Old Ones—the ancient race of internet commenters that trawl news sites looking for anyone reporting a story more than a couple of days old. "Old!" they cry, having found a suitable victim. Then they leave. Admittedly, they're not very scary.

Here's the trailer:

If you don't want to wait for a Steam Greenlight release, you don't have to. Penumbra: Necrologue is available to download right now.

PC Gamer

In Mod of the Week, Chris LIvingston scours the world of user-created adventure for worthy downloads. This week, a double helping as Chris investigates mods that makes Amnesia even scarier.

Just in time for (a few days after) Halloween, two full conversion mods for Amnesia: The Dark Descent, both by the same modder, umbakarna, both creepy and atmospheric in their own ways, yet entirely distinct from one another.

The first mod is called Meta, and concerns a journalist who has uncovered a scandal involving a powerful baron. The baron isn't particularly happy about being exposed for his "filthiness" and knocks the journalist unconscious, banishing him to a dungeon full of horrors. I guess he's not a fan of ethics in journalism.

Meta is straight-forward horror. Ghouls pursue you as you investigate dark torture chambers, claustrophobic tunnels, pitch-black hallways, and other creepy and disturbing environments while trying to puzzle-solve your way to freedom. The scares are very effective: at one moment about ten minutes into the mod I experienced more fright than I did in the entire sixteen hours I spent with The Evil Within. I actually jumped in my chair and shouted, well, a very bad swear.

There's a lot of custom features in addition to new maps and a new story: new objects, custom skins, maps, voice work and sound effects, and a fairly nice inventory and journal system. Mostly, though, the modder just does a great job by slathering on the dread. At one point I discovered another victim of the baron, sitting on a table in chains, his body mutilated and twisted. It took me a while to even work up the nerve to approach him, and I kept my eye on him for a while, figuring he'd lurch to life and shamble after me. He didn't, though. What he actually did was far worse: when I bent over to retrieve an object from the floor, I turned around to see that he'd completely vanished. Guhhhhh. The only thing worse than a monster you can see is one you can't, right?

There's probably about an hour or so of playtime in Meta, depending on how easily spooked you are and how good you are at solving puzzles in the dark. The mod ends with the promise of a sequel.

The second mod, Mana, is a bit different. Still definitely creepy at times, but less about straight-up nightmare fuel and more focused on exploration, puzzle-solving, and experimental gameplay.

Mana tells the story of a young woman discovering an evil presence at the magic school she's attending. Shocking, I know, that a school that teaches magic might contain some less-than-proper behavior. The young sorcerer, named Elisa, has decided to ditch the evil university, and the mod challenges you to help her escape.

Mana, much more than Meta, marks a real departure from vanilla Amnesia. There's naturally a mana system, in which you can illuminate rooms at a cost to your mana meter and later perform other magical feats like passing through certain walls and obstacles. Rather than chambers of pain and blood, there's a number of interesting, creative environments: shadowy bedrooms, hallways lit only by mystical runes, shimmering portals, and other eerie, enchanted places you might expect to find in a school of magic. You can recharge your mana in interesting ways: at one point, upon finding several dead pigs, I was able to enchant them back to life, refilling my magical batteries. Makes sense to me: seeing some pigs snorfling happily around, even re-animated zombie pigs, is a general mood-lifter.

There's still a bit of horror in Mana: a zombie-like hall monitor chased me around for a bit, slashing at me, and there are other ghouls and creatures lurking here and there, though some are harmless and others only bite if you're stupid enough (like me) to walk right up to them and peer into their faces. Mostly, though, Mana is more enchanting than scary.

To install one or both of these mods, download them here and here. Navigate to your main Amnesia: The Dark Descent installation folder, and drop the downloaded files right in there (they're named fullconversion_1 and fullconversion_2). To run them, open those folders and click the full_launcher .bat file contained within. There are also readme files in the downloaded folders if that's not clear.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (RPS)

We’re seven years old! (Actually, we were seven years old last month, but we’ve never been much for punctuality.) And so by way of celebration we’ve curated the latest weekly Humble Bundle, and that means we’ve chosen some of our most beloved indie games from the past seven years for the Pay What You Want sale. An esoteric bunch, but so very beautiful, all. If only there were room for all the delights of those many wonderful years. As ever, some of the money goes to charity, too: we chose EFF and Medecins Sans Frontieres. Find out more, below, or simply click over the the bundle itself.

… [visit site to read more]

PC Gamer

After a good start yesterday, day two of Steam s dozen-day Summer Sale isn t necessarily obliterating our minds with savings, but there s still some great values available today or through shorter-term flash sales. Within, find our picks for the best current deals on Steam. Don t forget that GOG is having a summer sale of its own, too.

Reminder: if a game isn't a daily deal or a flash sale, it could pop up later in the sale for an even lower price. If you want to be safe, wait until June 30 to pick up a sale-long deal.

5 - Ikaruga
50% off: $4.99 / 3.49 Steam store page | Note: May be reduced further in a Flash sale
50% may not be a huge discount, but one of the best SHMUPS of all time is worth every penny. Unlike most bullet hell shooters, Ikaruga's polarity-switching gameplay gives you the power to absorb some bullets while dodging others. At first, switching from white to black and back to stay alive just seems cool. Once you discover how the polarity system plays into scoring, you realize how deep and intimidating and brilliant it really is. Ikaruga's developer Treasure has been mostly dormant for the past few years, and this is their first-ever port to the PC. Back in January, the developer said it was mulling a new game for Steam. The more successful Ikaruga is on PC, the more likely that is to happen.

4 - Amnesia Collection
80% off: $6.99 / 4.79 - Steam store page
The Dark Descent and A Machine for Pigs, conveniently bundled into one cheap night terror. We loved both of them. Unlike horror games which arm you with evil-defeating ghost bullets, Amnesia is about being hunted: running, hiding, being disgustingly terrified by a sound effect. What Amnesia gets more than other survival horror games is that the things you can imagine are far more horrifying than anything it can show you on the screen. Even so, it ll show you some damn nasty stuff.

2 - The Walking Dead: Season 2
50% off: $12.49 / 9.49 - Steam store page
Putting players into Clementine's tiny shoes in season two of The Walking Dead was a gamble. In the first season, Lee was a grown-up, with the strength to fight walkers and the authority to make big decisions. How would that translate to playing a young girl? While episode one was a step down in quality, episode two was one of the best episodes Telltale has ever created. It proved that players can still make tough decisions as Clementine, and the season has mostly made her a believable protagonist. She can seem a little too grown up now and then, but the season is both gripping and heartbreaking so far. $2.50 per episode is a fantastic price.

2 - Prison Architect
66% off: $10.19 / 6.79 - Steam store page
Introversion s security sim is an interesting confluence of capitalism, architecture, management, and morality. The theme puts multiple, often contradicting goals before you: prisoner safety, spatial efficiency, prisoner well-being, making a profit, and making sure your prison is totally secure. Building a space that supports these goals is a fascinating exercise.

1 - Mount & Blade Collection
80% off: $6.99 / 4.99 - Steam store page | Flash sale: Buy it before 8 p.m. EST
It won t make your GPU sweat, but Taleworlds medieval sandbox action-RPG is one of our favorite open-ended experiences on PC. M&B s go anywhere, pillage anything approach to the genre is unlike anything else: a dynamic world populated by dozens of lords and dukes serving multiple factions, each roaming the same massive medieval landscape as you. Steal from farmers. Get married. Siege a castle. The combat is clumsy at times, but we love loosing arrows packs of bandits. Warband is what you should play, but this collection is a ticket to the ridiculous Star Wars Conquest mod for the original Mount & Blade.

Other great deals today
Remember that games not categorized as Daily Deals or Flash Sales may be reduced further.

Retro/Grade (90% off) $0.99 / 0.69
Deponia (90% off) $1.99 / 1.59
L.A. Noire: The Complete Edition (75% off) $7.49 / 6.24
Cloudbuilt (75% off) $4.99 / 3.74
Euro Truck Simulator 2 Collector's Bundle (75% off) $9.99 / 7.49
Defense Grid: The Awakening (75% off) $2.49 / 1.74
Devil May Cry 4 (75% off) $4.99 / 3.49
Unity of Command Trilogy Bundle (70% off) $8.99 / 6.89
Bit.Trip.Runner Franchise Pack (65% off) $5.94 / 4.54
Don't Starve + Reign of Giants DLC (60% off) $7.59 / 5.59
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alice O'Connor)

Don't you open that trapdoor. You're a fool if you dare...

Somewhere in the dark and nasty regions, where nobody goes, stands an ancient castle, according to an old British legend. Deep within this dank and uninviting place, lives Jonathan Burke, overworked servant of “the thing upstairs.” But that’s nothing compared to the horrors that lurk beneath the trap door, for there is always something down there, in the dark, waiting to come out.

Don’t you download that Trapdoor. You’re a fool if you dare. Stay away from that trapdoor, ’cause there’s something down there…

… [visit site to read more]

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Nathan Grayson)

I played Amnesia: The Dark Descent spiritual/ghooooostual successor SOMA, and it didn’t really do it for me. That said, Frictional creative director Thomas Grip’s plans for the wetter-is-deader stroll into the maw of madness are quite interesting, though whether he can pull it all off remains to be seen. Today we continue on from our previous discussion, pushing doggedly forward into Grip’s plan for possibly the longest build-up (five hours!) in horror gaming history, YouTube culture’s effect on horror, procedurally generated scares and why they both aid and mortally wound true terror, modern horror’s over-reliance on samey settings and tropes, and where Grip sees the genre heading in the future. >

Agree or disagree, the man has some extremely illuminating perspectives, and you can’t fault him for wanting to break away from the played-out influence of his own previous game. It’s all below.>

… [visit site to read more]

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Nathan Grayson)

SOMA didn’t scare the scuba suit off me, but I did find a creeping sort of potential in its soaked-to-the-bone corridors. Amnesia: The Dark Descent 2 this ain’t. Or at least, it’s not aiming to be. Currently, it still feels a lot like a slower-paced, less-monster-packed Amnesia in a different (though still very traditionally survival-horror-y) setting, but Frictional creative director Thomas Grip has big plans. I spoke with him about how he hopes to evolve the game, inevitable comparisons to the Big Daddy of gaming’s small undersea pond, BioShock, why simple monster AI is better than more sophisticated options, the mundanity of death, and how SOMA’s been pretty profoundly influenced by indie mega-hits like Dear Esther and Gone Home.>

… [visit site to read more]

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Nathan Grayson)

It’s not that I feel like SOMA is poorly made. On the contrary: for a demo of a game that’s at least a year out, the Amnesia spiritual successor practically sparkles> beneath its grimy, moss-encrusted shell. I just feel like, despite a very unexpected setting, I’ve been here before. Crept through these halls, turned these nobs, let these tidal waves of otherworldly sound crash into me as I press ever onward, slightly on-edge but no worse for the wear.

… [visit site to read more]

PC Gamer

There s a big reveal in Soma that only became big by accident: Frictional Games long-in-the-making horror follow-up to Amnesia is set underwater.

Initially some pockets of people (not us) thought it was set on a spaceship due to the abundance of grimy Giger-influenced corridors, which seemed to imply something Alienesque. Instead, I ve been walking across the ocean floor, following red lights in the dark and cowering at horrendous noises echoing through the waters. At no point was I in outer space.

So your first thought is BioShock, right? Soma s definitely not that. Horror is tonally dominant here, and the parts I played were entirely focused on exploration and puzzle elements. Like Amnesia, then, but with a greater emphasis on poking around. Of the various BioShocks, the second in the series comes closest, given your ability to wander around on the seabed, but the grim art direction of Soma sets it apart.

It s worth explaining at this point that Frictional made me play their game in the dark in the hotel room where the demo was being staged, while they went next door. Part of me hoped they d jump out at me dressed as a fish (they didn t).

What I played of their game is better described as tense, rather than scary. The two sections of the demo were taken from entirely different parts of the game, which was made fairly obvious by the abrupt change in setting. The first was set in an abandoned manufacturing facility, a mostly puzzle-driven area where I had to power-up a switch in a control room to open up a larger chamber. The only background information I d been given on the story was that the protagonist I was playing, Simon, was lost, and trying to work out where he was. OK then. A later task required me to look for a fuse in a maintenance room by moving objects around until I found it a task I initially failed by walking into water with an electrical current.

There was nothing too tricky in the game I played, however, and it was pretty much in line with Amnesia in terms of interface and moving objects around. The setting, however, was impressively detailed. This looks like a big-budget game, its production values no doubt helped by Amnesia s colossal success and Frictional s third iteration of their HPL Engine.

The Giger influence is mostly seen in the organic-looking electronic design, where cables coming out of power generators look more like tentacles protruding from a hive, crawling over the walls. The cable-ends even have little claws that twitch. The murky screenshots Frictional provided don t really show off how successful they ve been in building a sci-fi horror setting with its own visual language.

The underwater sections must have been the biggest challenge in terms of environmental design. When the demo cut to Simon standing on the ocean floor, with limited vision of what lay ahead, Soma started to feel like something new.

The dark green colour palette, the momentary image of sea life hovering overhead, and the vague outline of structures in the distance all made the unknown feel pretty exciting.

It s an environment that enables Frictional to experiment with new ways of scaring you, aided by an ambient soundtrack and the constant noise of Simon s breathing apparatus, pretty much an essential horror device post-Dead Space.

The seabed setting isn t massive, but was still big enough that I managed to get lost. One of my favourite images of the demo was the giant sunken submarine I found embedded on the ocean floor, signifying that I d reached the edge of the map. If I hadn t foolishly ignored the flashing red lights that show you where to go, I would ve missed this admirably lavish detail.

Following the red lights in the right direction next time, I encountered two abandoned underwater structures along the way. I also heard a couple of horrendous screams, about 30 seconds apart another of Soma s subtle indicators you re heading in the right direction.

My last task in the demo was to find a cutting tool, in order to slice through the thick cable wrapped around a metal door and impeding my progress. Searching for this device took me through a lot of samey-looking corridors until I eventually found it in a small office. The inventory is contextual, so the cutter only appeared in front of me when I returned to the metal door to cut through the blockage.

In the last few seconds of the demo, a robotic creature shrieked and made a run at me. With only this encounter to go on, and the one before that where the creature killed me, it s too soon to say how dealing with enemies will work in Soma.

We re still a year out from release, but during my hour with the demo, I felt that this chunk of Soma was already better paced than Amnesia. Its puzzles were taxing without being too obtrusive. I think this is the optimum structure for Frictional, leaning more towards exploration and discovery. I hope that the sequence I played isn t the only time we re allowed underwater either, since this was by far the most interesting part of what I played.

Soma s voice-acting risks undermining its atmosphere. Throughout the demo, audiotapes activated by clicking on dead bodies and other scenery filled-in the story, but they were overcooked, let down by recordings that I m hoping are temporary or unfinished. Soma was far more effective when it let me piece together its story without people talking over it. While the audiovisual design is so credible, the cast drag this into B-movie territory.

This first look at Soma demonstrates how Frictional s world-building has escalated since Amnesia. I m intrigued to explore the other corners of this new environment, and spend some time in the company of its enemies to see how the developers are handling that side of the game. As far as subject matter goes, Soma is a strong move for Frictional, and one that could help them innovate the way they present horror.

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